#21 Notre Dame Softball Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Rank: #21
Conference Rank: #3 Big East
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Notre Dame compiled a 40-16 record in 2012 under Coach Deanna Gumpf, the winningest softball coach in school history. A 1993 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Gumpf starts her 12th season with a record of 465-192-1 (.707 winning percentage), 11 NCAA trips and four Big East Conference titles. Notre Dame opens their season February 9 in the Charlotte Fast Pitch Classic facing Charlotte and Wisconsin. Also on the schedule are former NCAA champions Washington and Arizona and 2012 NCAA runner-up Oklahoma. The first season of Irish softball was 1989. Last season Notre Dame finished second in Big East and lost to Louisville, 4-3 in eight innings in the Big East Tournament.
2012: 40-16, 16-3
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Deanna Gumpf
Field Players:
Notre Dame returns 13 letter winners led by senior catcher/utility  Amy Buntin, who became the school’s 21st All-American in 2012 with a breakout season, leading the team in batting average, (.360), hits (62), RBI (60) and runs scored (45). She played in 56 games and made 55 starts and she had a .990 fielding percentage in 2012. In her first three years, she has compiled a .330 batting average, hitting 17 homers with 12 coming in 2012. Buntin has started 110 of 136 games. Also returning are Katey Haus (IF, .299), Emilee Koermer (OF, .320), Chloe Saganowich (IF, .321), Jenna Simon (IF, .286) and Kelsey Thornton (C/OF, .348).  Thornton has stolen 46 of 57 bases over the last three years and will keep teams honest on the base paths.  Among the key players lost through graduation were Alex Maldonado (OF, fourth leading hitter, .333) and Dani Miller (IF, 16 homers, 341, All Big East selection in 2012).
Laura Winter and Brittany O’Donnell were the two main pitchers in 2012 and return for the 2013 season. Winter compiled 29-11 record with a 2.18 ERA, striking out 288 batters in 263.1 innings pitched. O’Donnell compiled an 11-5 record with 72 strikeouts in 94 innings pitched. In three years O’Donnell has compiled a 28-9 record while Winter has fashioned a 54-15 record with 504 strikeouts in 442 .2 innings. Winter was one of  the Big East Pitchers of the Year. Jackie Bowie also returns to pitch but was 0-0 with only 22 innings pitched and an ERA of 1.91.
Who to Watch:
Freshman Casey Africano of Huntington Beach, California hit four homers in the fall as the Fighting Irish compiled a 3-0-1 record. She will catch and play the infield and is one of five newcomers on the team.
Final Projection:
The Fighting Irish were eliminated by Arizona in the Tucson Regional and certainly will have a chance to avenge that loss when the two teams meet early this season. Depending on how newcomers develop and how the returning players pick up the slack for the players lost through graduation, the Fighting Irish could again earn an NCAA berth.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Amy Buntin, C/UT, 172
Hits: Amy Buntin, C/UT, 62
Home Runs: Amy Buntin, C/UT, 12
RBIs: Amy Buntin, C/UT, 60
Runs: Amy Buntin, C/UT, 45
Stolen Bases: Kelsey Thornton, OF, 19
Wins: Laura Winter, P, 29
Innings Pitched: Laura Winter, P, 263.1
Strikeouts: Laura Winter, P, 288
Saves: Laura Winter, P, 3
Madness 2013 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#62 Casey Africano
#99 Megan Sorlie